Nine legends from the world of motorsports, including Owensboro’s own Nicky Hayden, were officially inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA) on Wednesday.
The 33rd class was unveiled earlier this year at Daytona International Speedway in advance of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“Nicky being inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is a huge honor,” the Hayden family told Owensboro Times when the class was unveiled. “It is an extremely proud moment for Nicky and our family.”
This MSHFA induction is the latest in a long line of honors Hayden has received posthumously since succumbing to injuries from a bicycling accident in May of 2017 while training in Italy. The “Kentucky Kid” was also inducted into the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame class of 2018, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) class of 2018, and the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame class of 2018. MotoGP also held a special commemoration to retire Hayden’s racing number — 69 — during the MotoGP race in Austin, Texas, in 2019.
“Nicky will be enshrined here forever,” Adam Saal, who is on the MSHFA board of directors, said earlier this year. “We are proud to usher him into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, where he rightly belongs. Nicky and his brothers set the standard for what a motorcycle racing career could be. Obviously, we wish Nicky could accept this honor himself, but hopefully this puts another crowning moment on Nicky’s career and gives the Hayden family another reason to celebrate.”
The 2020 and 2021 class induction ceremonies were both postponed because of COVID-19 precautions, leading to a week-long celebration of motorsports in Pontiac, Mich.
The 2020 was inducted in a ceremony beginning on Monday, while the 2021 class join the MSHFA in a Wednesday celebration. A Heroes of Horsepower event at The Henry Ford Museum took place Tuesday.
Joining Hayden, who was crowned 2006 MotoGP World Champion (Motorcycle), in the newest MSHFA class are Davey Allison (Stock Cars); three-time land speed record holder John Cobb (Historic); three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon Jr. (Drag Racing); Indy and NASCAR trailblazer Janet Guthrie (Open Wheel); legendary Indy correspondent Robin Miller (Media); seven consecutive APBA Gold Cup winner Fran Muncey (Powerboats); multi-time USAC and NASCAR champion Ray Nichels (Historic); and world class timer/scorer Judy Stropus (Sports Cars).
According to a press release, the MSHFA is the only Hall that honors all American motorsports: cars, motorcycles, airplanes, off road and powerboats. Its mission is to celebrate and instill the American motorsports values of leadership, creativity, originality, teamwork and spirit of competition.
Each of the MSHFA’s inductees is elected by a straight vote of 200 motorsports experts — half of them inductees themselves. Regular voters include Hall of Famers Mario Andretti, Tom D’Eath, Chip Ganassi, Don Garlits, Parnelli Jones, Scott Parker, Richard Petty, Don Prudhomme and other titans of the sport.
Prior to leaving MotoGP, Nicky was named a “Legend” (which is MotoGP’s version of a Hall of Fame) in 2015 and was still actively racing World Superbike at the time of his accident in 2017. Hayden emerged in 1997, winning the inaugural AMA Horizon Award in recognition of his flat-track prowess. In 1999, he was named AMA Athlete of the Year after capturing the AMA Supersport title and his first Grand National win. Three years later he became the youngest ever winner of the AMA Superbike Championship, including the 2002 Daytona 200.
Hayden raced 13 years in MotoGP, capturing 28 podiums, three wins, and five pole positions. He was 2003 MotoGP Rookie of the Year and won the World Championship in 2006, breaking Valentino Rossi’s five-year winning streak. He also won a race in World Superbike and was fifth in points in 2016.